Mayweather-Ortiz: New characters, same story
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Ocala, FL (Sports Network) -
Stop me if you've heard this before... but not everyone likes Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The myriad e-mails I've already received this week -- reacting to yet another caustic performance in HBO's latest "24/7" hype-o-mentary -- are unanimous in their righteous indignation.
Get this... people think Floyd is an arrogant jerk.
In the 2011 reprise of a four-year-old "Network of Champions" recipe -- previously remixed in 2007, '09 and '10 -- people don't appear to enjoy the way Mayweather brashly taunts his foes. They don't enjoy the way he acts superior. And they don't enjoy the way he flaunts wealth and status.
So, disgusted by the very persona PPV execs covet, people are again eyeing a Saturday in Las Vegas as a chance for a talented, respectful gentleman type to rise up and clean "Money's" diamond-encrusted clock... and they're willing to part with $59.95 for the chance to watch it happen.
They view handsome, articulate Victor Ortiz -- who many discarded after in- ring surrender at 140 -- as the latest perfect foil to Mayweather's street- thug anti-hero, and breathlessly hope the newly-minted 147-pound Cinderella can complete the job 40 others have tried and failed.
People don't appear to enjoy the way Floyd Mayweather Jr. brashly taunts his foes.
But lost in the fairy-tale image contrast is a "Vicious" truth.
Good guy or bad... Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the best fighter on the planet.
And there's really nothing -- shy of entering the ring with a few dozen armed Golden Boy teammates -- that Victor Ortiz can do about it.
Detractors one and all will point to Ortiz's recent reincarnation, southpaw power and pre-fight demeanor to confidently say, "You know what? Floyd's never seen a guy like this before."
They'll say it.
And bless their hopeful hearts, they might even mean it.
But they'll be dead wrong.
While the Ortiz specter is admittedly fresh-faced, it's competitively far less daunting than previous 24/7 threats -- Mssrs. De La Hoya, Hatton, Marquez and Mosley, for recollection's sake -- skillfully defused by Mayweather with nary a sweat, let alone a genuine chance of losing.
Ortiz, meanwhile, barely outran oblivion during a lone audition for the big time, narrowly wresting the WBC belt from Andre Berto on a night identified as much for Berto's ill-timed slip-up as for any significant progress from Ortiz -- who, lest we forget, entered as a sizable underdog.
In fact, the 24-year-old got the fight only after a dead-end at junior welter, where he'd beaten ex-champs Vivian Harris and Nate Campbell and drew with Lamont Peterson in three of five fights following the stunning TKO by Marcos Maidana and its introspective aftermath:
"I'd rather just stop when I'm ahead," Ortiz said back then, with HBO cameras running. "I'm young, but I don't think I deserve to get beat up like this. I've got a lot of thinking to do."
Exactly two years and one belt later, I guess introspection went insolent.
"I've never thought (Mayweather) was great, ever since I was a kid," Ortiz said.
"When you're a little boy, you sit back and you say, 'Wow. That guy's good. That guy's great.' Oscar was one of those for me. Mosley was definitely one of those for me. Bernard Hopkins was one of those for me. In his prime, Zab Judah was one of those for me.
"Floyd, not in his prime, not in his come up, not in his anything, has ever been that to me. So I'm definitely not impressed, for one, and I'm not a person who's going to hold any kind of respect like those 41 other victims."
OK, three fighters Floyd beat were great.
But Floyd's not.
And that sound you hear now... is insolence going ignorant.
"I don't really care what he's got to bring, you know, he's done," Ortiz said. "The moment they mentioned Victor Ortiz versus Mayweather, he was done. Period."
In a way, you've got to admire the kid's blather.
But rhetoric aside, reality remains reality.
Strip away Ortiz's charming back story and he's not awfully different from those previously offered as Mayweather's worst nightmares, particularly the bull/matador blueprints of Arturo Gatti in June 2005, Carlos Baldomir in November 2006 and Hatton in December 2007.
Gatti was blood-and-guts enough to push Mayweather with resilience. The surging Baldomir was rough-and-tumble enough to score another in a string of upsets. And Hatton was all-around talented enough to combine the best of both into an ale-chugging, song-singing force.
Or, well... maybe not.
For those unaware of how that all turned out -- Gatti was beaten to a stool- slumped pulp over six rounds, Baldomir disappeared quickly after aggression became survival and Hatton got check-hooked into stupor by precise, powerful shots he still hasn't seen coming.
Make no mistake, Ortiz is younger, stronger and fitter than all three. But when teleconference push comes to center-ring shove, the only assets that matter -- speed, athleticism, defense, elite experience -- remain unquestionably checked off on the loudmouth's side of the ledger.
Like it or not.
And while I concede he's a sensitive kid whose Lifetime movie I'll one day be hard-pressed to ignore, Ortiz -- in a boxing ring with a motivated, agitated Mayweather -- is quite possibly the last person whose shoes I'd want to fill in Las Vegas come Saturday night.
My guess... it'll take longer than Gatti and be more competitive than Baldomir.
But in the end it'll look a lot like Hatton.
Mayweather by TKO, in 10.
Your move, Congressman Manny.
This week's title-fight schedule:
WBC welterweight title -- Las Vegas, NV
Victor Ortiz (champion) vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (No. 1 contender)
Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten above 140 pounds (13-0-2, 11 KO)
Mayweather (41-0, 25 KO): Nineteenth title fight (18-0, 9 KO); Held titles at 130, 135, 140, 147 and 154
Fitzbitz says: "Tough young title-holder not in ex-champ's pound-for-pound league." Mayweather in 10
WBC super welterweight title -- Los Angeles, CA
Saul Alvarez (champion) vs. Alfonso Gomez (No. 7 contender)
Alvarez (37-0-1, 27 KO): Second title defense; Sixth fight in United States (5-0, 3 KO)
Gomez (23-4-2, 12 KO): Second title fight (0-1, 0 KO); Fourteen fight in California (11-1-1, 5 KO)
Fitzbitz says: "Precocious phenom continues feast on B-level competition." Alvarez by decision
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "World Championships" are only included if no "Super Champion" exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 0-2 Overall picks record: 334-112 (74.8 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.